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Eugénie, the beautiful spanish girl
In 1849, fresh from her native Spain, Eugénie of Montijo became the darling of French Society. No surprises there, as she was stunningly beautiful and men found her impossible to resist. Rare and powerful qualities that made her stand out by nineteenth century Parisian standards...
Eugénie painted by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Her overnight success also happened to come along at the perfect time, as her stay in the French capital had one clear objective: to find a husband that would help her secure a place right at the top of the beau monde. A carefully schemed venture planned by her mother, an eccentric Spanish countess with mysterious and questionable connections. The perfect man had already been chosen, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte, none other than Napoléon's nephew, and recently appointed President of the French Republic.
Thanks to her cunning and one of her many acquaintances, the old countess managed to secure a much coveted invitation to the Palais de l'Elysée for herself and her daughter, all in the hope of meeting the young President. With luck and a chance encounter on their side, Louis became enthralled by Eugénie's charm and beauty. Two more years would however have to pass before love was declared and an official marriage proposal made.
History has it that the couple fell in love during a hunt taking place in the Forest of Compiègne, a little while after the 1852 Coup. Since the Palais' dinner and their first meeting, Eugénie had become a favoured guest, invited to all Society parties and official state events. The hunt however marked a significant turning point in the couple's relationship, as from then on Louis-Napoléon openly courted the young beauty. A brooch was also especially created for her in less than 24 hours; a diamond and emerald adorned clover, as this was a plant close to Eugénie's heart.
His crowning as Emperor in 1852, meant that Napoleon III had to marry to formerly establish his power. Without a moment's doubt, he chose Eugénie. A love match, which he told his government about in a few powerful words: 'I preferred a woman that I love and respect over a woman that is a stranger and a union that would have been a combination of advantage and sacrifice. I bear no grudges, and I am also not resentful, I am simply following my heart, after carefully consulting my reason and convictions'. The ceremony took place on January 30th 1853 in Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Eugénie became Empress of the French, realising the prediction made to her by a fortune teller when she was a child: 'You will go very far'.